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Cameron F. LaBarr
Choral Journal, February 2013

James Whitbourn composed the stunning music on this recording and then was able to follow it through all stages of the recording process with the musical leadership of James Jordan and the Westminster Williamson Voices of Westminster Choir College.

The first work on the recording, the Son of God Mass, is uniquely scored for choir, organ, and soprano saxophone. Saxophonist Jeremy Powell offers a performance that is completely engaging, with lush color, virtuosity, and emotion. Complemented by the reflective acoustic of Princeton University Chapel, Ken Cowan produces a sound from the organ that perfectly fits with the exquisite singing from the Williamson Voices.

This disc is a prime example of [Williamson Voices’] exemplary tone and commitment to excellence. Much of the sincerity found in this recording can partly be attributed to it being recorded in only two complete takes, which also lends itself to cohesive improvisations by Jeremy Powell.

Requiem canticorum fills the heart with comfort, commemorating the dead and soothing the spirits of those with sorrow and grief. The unique pairing of the organ and soprano saxophone in the Alleluia movement allows the final iteration of “Requiem aeternam” to make a clear and powerful statement of rest and resolution. James Jordan and the Williamson Voices perform the chant-like final movement “Lux Aeterna” with utmost truthfulness and precision, concluding on a long-awaited C-major chord.

Perhaps one of surprises on this disc is the recitation of Andrew Motion’s poem Living Voices by actor, conductor, and writer Ronn Carroll. Carroll’s speaking voice allows the music to communicate in a new light.

The choral and instrumental sounds on this disc are magnificent and haunting, journeying through love, grief, faith, and rest. James Jordan and James Whitbourn are master collaborators who bring supreme artistry to this music through the recording process. Listeners will tend to forget about the technique required to make such beautiful sounds, but rather will be transformed by the sheer beauty of the sonic experience. © 2013 Choral Journal




David Vernier
ClassicsToday.com, January 2013
…here is music that accomplished choirs can sing, that you don’t have to be an avant-gardeist listener to pretend to enjoy, and thus, in the grand scheme of choral music, gives singers something to anticipate and savor, and listeners much to celebrate.

Whitbourn’s Son of God Mass, the major piece on this program, is a…gem, a masterpiece, a work that compels you to listen in a new way, to appreciate the saxophone sound as an integral part of the work’s structure and expressive frame. In Whitbourn’s creative hands, and in Jeremy Powell’s sensitive, sensuous realizations, it is a most compelling, wordless soloist, sometimes pleading, prayerful, contemplative, mysterious, moody,  sometimes soaring, exuberant. Each movement is exceptionally well conceived to suit the mood and meaning of the texts; the final Amen is a marvelous, climactic utterance.

The music thrives on the warm, resonant timbre of these 40 well-trained voices  and benefits from ensemble balances carefully tuned to texture and to the acoustic of the Princeton University Chapel.

…well worth hearing—and repeating. Highly recommended. © 2013 ClassicsToday.com Read complete review



Joshua Rosenblum
Opera News, March 2012

The three elements of Whitbourn’s timbral tapestry on most of these works—choral voices, organ and soprano sax—blend in fresh and unexpected ways; sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a sustained underpinning of sound is the chorus, a subtle stop on the organ or a combination thereof. Jeremy Powell’s soulful, virtuoso sax playing and Ken Cowan’s magisterial rendering of the organ parts are vital contributions. (The sonics on this disc, recorded in the Princeton University Chapel by John C. Baker, with mixing and mastering by David Wright, are magnificent.) The Westminster Williamson Voices under conductor James Jordan are alternately vibrant and sensitive, as called for. © 2012 Opera News Read complete review



William J Gatens
American Record Guide, January 2012

The performance quality is excellent. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online



Infodad.com, November 2011

James Whitbourn commemorates the murders on 9/11 in a very different way with a very different work called Living Voices, written the same year that the terrorists struck and lasting just three minutes—and using a poem by Andrew Motion to express the mournfulness of the time. And there are several well-made shorter pieces offered here as well, all of them preoccupied with life, death and the balance between the two—and the faith-based response of the living to the death of loved ones. Read complete review



Malcolm Riley
Gramophone, November 2011

undoubtedly…strikingly beautiful…Westminster Williamson Voices is well honed, muscular and rich…A Brief Story of Peter Abelard, is the strongest and most satisfying piece on the disc…Jeremy Powell’s saxophone-playing is compelling…

To read the complete review, please visit Gramophone online.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2011

Born in 1963, James Whitbourn’ s sacred choral works are in a popular language aimed at reaching a wide cross-section of those with a religious inclination. Stylistically it comes within the orbit of his work in the world of music for television and films. Strong on melody that falls easily on the ear within catchy rhythms, it comes from a different world to the religious music of yesteryear. At times it has a kinship with the music of Howard Blake, and also possesses that slow moving hypnotic quality that has given popularity to the music of John Tavener. The most extensive score is the Son of God Mass, set out in the traditional form of the Catholic Mass and scored for soprano saxophone, organ and choir. Musically it begins in the Middle East, and as we progress through the work we briefly return in time to Palestrina; through a solo for organ; into the English choral traditions of the 19th century, the resulting score having a universal background before ending in a massive Amen that Elgar would have been proud of. The other extended score, the Requiem canticorum, stylistically covers much the same ground and is scored for the same forces. Suitably sombre in general mood it contains a beautiful Piu Jusu. The remaining works are intended for concert use and are for chorus with the exception of A brief story of Peter Abelard, a work originally for alto saxophone and piano here arranged by the composer for the disc’s performers, Jeremy Powell and Ken Cowan—soprano saxophone and organ. The outstanding Westminster Williamson Voices is a mixed choir of forty voices and comes from the Westminster Choir College in Princetown, New Jersey. Under its conductor, James Jordan, it moves readily through Whitbourn’s many religious moods. Well detailed sound.






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